After the Webinar: Who’s Been Nibbling in Your Garden? Q&A with the Presenters

Webinar Presenters Nancy Lawson and John Griffin answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Who’s Been Nibbling in Your  Garden? Solving Problems with Woodchucks Rabbits and Other Garden Nibblers. Here are just a few of their responses.


Audience Question:  Does human urine deter animals? 

Nancy Lawson: Well, I mean I started doing it because I was told that it did. Now, John, I think John may have told me, it’s harder when you’re a vegetarian. Maybe John Hadidian told me that. John, you go first.

John Griffin: No, I think that Hadidian said something about that. Just this sort of carnivore. But I think it what it does is it set marks. It shows that there’s been human activity and that causes some concern, especially for prey animals that are already cautious as it is, so that that can disrupt their travel pattern and make them less likely to go in those, or frequent those spots if it’s if it’s pretty consistent.

Nancy Lawson: Yeah. And a lot of things that I do are just like letting them know that I’m around like if I see something starting to get nibbled, and I don’t have time for even that, or fencing, or whatever. I’ll just leave a pot in front of it, or I’ll leave my watering can just something like that. It seems to really help because it’s just movement in the landscape instead of you just hanging back.

John Griffin: I think generally, too that’s a great idea to keep in your keep in your mind like that to come combine these kinds of strategies is really the most effective way to reduce activity or reduce animals where they’re not wanted. So, you know it’s not just olfactory scent, it’s movement, or changing or altering something that’s giving them cues, that there are other things going on here that might make them less likely to want to hang around in that area, particularly.


Audience Question:  Does it matter if the urine is from an adult or a child?

Nancy Lawson: I would experiment with that. I say I doubt it. In my experience, it’s been successful, and I know other gardeners’ experiences too, for the reasons, probably, that John mentioned, but I doubt the age would really matter.


Audience Question:: Is there a direct link between deer overbrowsing, forest degradation, and the plethora of small animals transmitting disease?

Nancy Lawson: There is research on that. Particularly the ongoing at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. I don’t think they’ve made that connection at all, that it has to do with deer browsing. But they have researched the forced fragmentation and the lack of predators in those areas, bobcats, and foxes, who tend to be a lot fewer in number when forests are more fragmented, and they don’t prey upon. So, therefore they’re not there to prey upon the white-footed mice who are considered to be, you know, one of the main significant factors in the transfer of Lyme.


Audience Question: What is the best way to identify and purchase plans that are native to my area? Is there an online guide? Or is it better just to use a plant identification app and go around the yard? 

Nancy Lawson: Yeah, so, those are certainly transformative. And when I started I had to look in books, and I still do. But it’s so much more helpful to be able to use iNaturalists, in particular, which is really great, because it’s research-graded, and you can get a lot of help there. And you can get instant IDing. Pretty good guesses there! But there are so many good databases just for looking for plants that are native to your area. If you’re talking about purchasing or even nurturing ones that you think you might already have. And the national ones, I love the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It has a native plant database that’s national, a lot of good information there. And Audubon also does the National Wildlife Federation. Your local native plant society, usually every State has one, and they’re usually super helpful with information on their websites as well as Facebook pages which are often community-based. And you can go on and ask questions there.


Audience Question:  How do we balance, the desire for natural landscaping, including the benefits of leaf layers with the realities of wildfire seasons that seem to be getting longer? 

Nancy Lawson: Yeah. I think that you know, there’s a lot better resources than what I could talk about being in the East out there in terms of protecting your home and keeping some of that matter away from the perimeter of your home. Here the leaves actually create so much moisture and retain moisture in it, and they make it drier if we take them away. But, of course, every place is different. So, I would say that you know that one of the best ways to at least do some habitat is to plant those native plants. That is native to your area. Even if it’s a dry area and the plants generally are going to have a lot of water content, not be so flammable. And if you leave some of those natural spaces a little further out from your home if you can.

John Griffin: No, I think that’s right. I think you know, thinking about what can add to keep some of that area. That’s what I mean. I know there are certain restrictions. You can’t have certain plantings, you know, based approximal to a structure in in some instances, by code or requirement. But thinking about that thoughtfully about how you can keep some of that area moist by having those natural plantings in and around areas where there might be an issue, that’s ideal.


Audience Question:  Can you explain the no trap loan pledge? 

John Griffin: Sure. So, this is our wild neighbors pledge. This is our sort of entryway into getting access to all our resources on wildlife conflict resolution, and for professionals who are responding to constituents and providing advice or being asked to provide advice or asked to respond. Their agency can meet one of those three criteria either they use humane solutions to address wildlife conflicts, or that they don’t loan traps to the general public to trap wildlife and then bring them into the shelter, or that they don’t automatically euthanize species just because it’s in the RVS classification that’s like, just because it’s a raccoon, or just because it’s a fox, or a bat, they don’t automatically use euthanize, euthanize it when it’s when it’s brought in by a member of the public, or it’s found and brought in. But that’s the basis of the pledge. If you haven’t seen it, we’d love for you to go to and check it out, and you can find out how to sign up. And it’s a pretty easy process to do, and we’ll get your agency connected and you’ll get. You’ll get ongoing emails about our resources and webinars like this and other training and fact sheets. And, importantly, our humane wildlife conflict resolution guide, which is our bigger resource, provides people who are giving advice packaged information to share based on specific conflicts.


Audience Question: The second question is, “I work for animal control. We’ve stopped providing traps for most animals, except for raccoons and skunks because they’re the most likely to have rabies. How do we convince our community that they’re more of a nuisance and don’t need to be trapped?” 

John Griffin: Well, it’s challenging, right? I mean, it’s that’s sort of the idea that these animals don’t belong is sometimes in the mix. You know that they don’t belong in urbanized areas, and that’s you know. That’s just not true. We’d never be able to kill them all and remove them all. It’s just not possible, they absolutely belong here. This is, you know, we’re providing habitat, and they’re going to continue to use it and continue to be present. It’s I think it starts with recognizing that’s not doing anything, and it’s perpetuating this expectation from a constituent that it should be done when it shouldn’t. I mean, they’re removing an animal that’s just transiting through, or just in the yard or in the curtilage of the property without identifying what actually is the problem, what was the animal actually doing that’s causing a problem or causing concern is just going to continue to provide an impetus to continue off that service which isn’t costing the agency, time and money and effort, and also having you know, an impact on the people that are doing this work like killing healthy wildlife. You know that has an impact all its own. And you know, aside from the welfare impacts on the animals that are being trapped. I mean essentially the argument that works is that it doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t do anything to actually solve a problem that people are experiencing. And it costs money. And when you couple those things together it’s ineffective, and we’re spending money on it. And you know, those are typically the arguments that work. But if you’d like to work on it, please, email me or please email someone on our team. And we’ll try to help as best we can to provide the information, or even have a meeting with the community political leadership if they’re interested in in at least discussing it.


Audience Question: Is newspaper and cardboard better to use than gardening fabric? And how about using carpet?

Nancy Lawson: I definitely wouldn’t use carpet because of the chemicals in there that could leach into the soil, for you know who knows how long but newspaper and cardboard are what I use all the time, and there’s some discussion about cardboard not actually allowing enough air exchange and in the short term being bad for the soil, I tend to use it for pathways. In my plantings, I use newspaper, it breaks down well and smothers it with organic matter. It is the easiest way to create a new garden bed, especially as you get older, and your back starts to hurt.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Who’s Been Nibbling in Your  Garden? Solving Problems with Woodchucks Rabbits and Other Garden Nibblers


Additional Resources
2 years ago
Handling “Nuisance” Wildlife Calls
Conflicts between humans and wildlife seem to be inevitable. These are often because of a lack of aw […]
3 years ago
Reuniting and Renesting Orphaned Wildlife
Humans and animals are co-existing knowingly or unknowingly in communities. There is so much that hu […]
4 years ago
Top 10 Tips for Taking Wildlife Calls
Animal care and control organizations rarely do have the resources and capacity to respond to all wi […]
4 years ago
Urban Wildlife 101
What used to be woods or fields are being turned into cities to cater to the human population that d […]